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Community Highlights: Meet Phonephet Troy Sayakumane of BAAN by Sayakumane Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Phonephet Troy Sayakumane.

So excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My background is in interior design/architecture. During the pandemic, I had time to reflect and realized I wanted to use my skills to do good. I thought about the strengths of communities and the almost impossible feats accomplished daily by essential workers, most of whom are immigrants. And I thought about the Lao community.

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during the secret war. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civilians during the nine-year period. This and the political strife happening in Laos led to my parents fleeing to the US and settling in Amarillo, TX. Within a decade, and despite speaking little-to-no-English, my parents and their community of Lao refugees were able to establish a thriving Laotian community in the middle of the Bible belt consisting of restaurants, grocery stores and a Buddhist temple.

My parent’s origin story is the genesis for BAAN, which means “home” in Lao. I wanted to design a community-driven health and wellness eco-retreat inspired by the strength and resilience of the Lao people and the joy of village living in Laos. BAAN is a place where guests can convene with nature, meditate under the stars, and experience community.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has been less than a year since I started, but most of this journey has been incredibly rewarding and inspired. I have been able to build a community of supporters, including an alliance with Legacies of War, a non-profit organization that highlights the undetonated ordnances still harming some Lao villages today. Finding funding has been more challenging. We launched a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo because we wanted to make this a community-built project. And while donors can become a founder for as little as $10, our fundraising effort revealed how divided the Lao Community is after immigrating to the US. However, through crowdfunding and exposure, we are building long-lasting relationships with community leaders who are helping guide us in our fundraising efforts by connecting and slowly building trust within the community.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about BAAN by Sayakumane Studio?
I am a Designer with 20+ combined years of professional experience in Interior Design\Interior architecture (specializing in luxury hotels) and Advertising Media Planning.

My time working at top interior design firms in LA and NYC has given me the knowledge and expertise to create thoughtful designs through a holistic approach that considers brands, products, people and environments.

BAAN’s Community Outreach:

We want everyone to have the opportunity to experience BAAN. BAAN will provide complimentary stays to marginalized or underserved communities based on requests reviewed by our committee.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
There is a Lao phrase: “Hak Pang Gon,” which means “to care for others.” This philosophy is what is driving Baan and what is giving me the motivation to push through with this project. I will l consider Baan successful if I have managed to highlighted the Lao lived experience and given visibility to a group who has felt largely overlooked in US history.


  • We are welcoming everyone to help build this community and donate to our crowdsourcing effort on Indiegogo. All funds will go toward land acquisition and construction costs with our goal of building Baan by year 2022. Our tiers range $10 to become a founder, to a 5-night stay for $1250 in a luxury pod (30% discount offered exclusively to our community) , but any amount helps pave the way. Please donate at:

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Profile photo Diego Razera @diegorazera

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